HHS Public Access – Sleep is an important component of human life, yet many people do not understand the relationship between the brain and the process of sleeping.
A minimum of 7 hours of daily sleep seems to be necessary for proper cognitive and behavioral function. The emotional and mental handicaps associated with chronic sleep loss as well as the highly hazardous situations which can be contributed to the lack of sleep is a serious concern that people need to be aware of.
When one sleeps, the brain reorganizes and recharges itself, and removes toxic waste byproducts which have accumulated throughout the day. This evidence demonstrates that sleeping can clear the brain and help maintain its normal functioning.
\Multiple studies have been done to determine the effects of total sleep deprivation; more recently some have been conducted to show the effects of sleep restriction, which is a much more common occurrence, have the same effects as total sleep deprivation.
\Each phase of the sleep cycle restores and rejuvenates the brain for optimal function. When sleep is deprived, the active process of the glymphatic system does not have time to perform that function, so toxins can build up, and the effects will become apparent in cognitive abilities, behavior, and judgment.
Many patients complain of times of insomnia, or that they do not get a sufficient amount of sleep. It has been often stated that eight hours of sleep per night is the required amount to be well rested and to be able to function at one’s best.
The amount of sleep required to feel healthy and well rested is very individualized. There is not an exact number of hours or minutes of sleep that must be obtained for optimal health, but there does seem to be a range of sleep time needed for an individual to be cognitively aware of daily tasks and able to perform at one’s best.
Lack of sleep affects different parts of the brain, independently. For example, temporal lobe is associated with language processing, so lack of sleep often results in slurred speech because the brain’s inability to process the neuronal signal at optimum levels. Studies have shown that NREM sleep is important for turning off the norepinephrine, serotonin and histamine neurotransmitters, which in turn allows their receptors to “rest” and regain sensitivity.
This allows norepinephrine, serotonin and histamine to be more effective at naturally produced levels. During sleep, there are enzymes that repair brain cell damage caused by free radicals. In contrast, lack of sleep does not allow our brain to function normally because of the neurotransmitters, and neurons that are unable to rest or regenerate.
This becomes worse with people that are sleep deprived for days and their neurons start to degenerate because of constantly being actively at work. The neurons get worn out without having the time to regenerate and rest.
What are the consequences of sleep deprivation?
Many patients request their healthcare provider prescription of sleep aids, complaining about the inability to sleep. Some providers prescribe sleep aids to them, but many patients leave their office with a diagnosis of depression than a diagnosis of insomnia.
Many factors can affect one’s ability to get a full restful night of sleep. Depression, anxiety or stress may be a cause that inhibits the ability to fall asleep, or to stay sleeping through the night. Medical problems or sleep disorders may prevent a person from obtaining undisturbed sustained sleep, or from entering into all stages of sleep.
The average amount of sleep time for Americans as self-reported in a 2005 Gallup Poll survey of adults, 18 year-olds and older showed that 71% got less than eight hours of sleep per night on weekdays, and of those 16 % received less than 6 hours of sleep per night.
The same population reported that they made up for some of the lost sleep time on the weekend, with 49 % stating that they obtained over eight hour of sleep and another 24 % (for a total of 73%) describing greater than seven. One classic study actually showed those hours of sleep on weekends.
Several scientific studies have been done to measure the physical and neurologic effects of total sleep deprivation, and now there is also scientific data available that evaluated the effects of restricted amount of sleep on neurobehavioral and physiologic function of a person that has been done that is reliable and reproducible. In two well controlled studies, healthy adults voluntarily were subjected to limited hours of sleep, randomized into 4, 6 and 8 hours of sleep. Caffeine use was carefully restricted as was sleep and wake time.
Neurobehavioral effects were tested using psychomotor vigilance tasks (PVT), which uses timed feedback for continued attention to measures the speed with which subjects respond to a visual stimulus. Other tests included a computerized digital subtraction test, which was used to measure working memory.
… In summary, the correlation between the brain and sleep serves multiple purposes and reasons in one’s life. Hence, its capacity to act as memory storage as well as its ability to process simple day to day tasks.
Sleeping not only relieves stress and depression –but also prolongs alertness and memory recall. With the process of sleep, through the stages of non-rapid eye movement (NREM) to the rapid eye movement (REM); one can understand that sleeping is a necessity.
From this one can see, that if an individual continually has insufficient amount of sleep; the repercussions could be hazardous both short and long term ones. Therefore, there is plenty of evidence indicating that sleep is crucial. In addition, with the discovery of the relationship between sleep and the brain’s health; one can conclude that sleeping clears the build-up of toxic waste products and may be of interest in investigating psychiatric illnesses.
Moreover, the implications for warding off psychiatric disturbances are paramount, especially in Bipolar Disorder due to prodromal features often being lack of need for sleep. Similarly, patients suffering from Depression, Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia, and other maladies may want to consider proper sleep hygiene as part of the healing process as the brain’s glymphatic system clears out toxins, or may not be in certain psychiatric disturbances.
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